Wrinkled Wisdom: An AI Update So We Can Be…Well…Intelligent

It’s time to get up to speed on OpenAI’s ChatGPT, its updated version—GPT-4, Microsoft’s Bing, Google’s new “experiment” Bard, and others so we can converse with the younger generation. These are artificial intelligence (AI) tools called chatbots that automate responses to your questions, simulating human conversation. Just think of it as talking to, well, a computer.

Be cool and refer to these new chatbots as generative AI, meaning they can produce novel and innovative content rather than simply regurgitate their programmed data from web pages, books, and other sources. The new GPT-4 reportedly has “advanced reasoning capabilities.” Oh, and it’s less “unhinged.” Bard tells you right away that it “makes mistakes.”

With all the buzz about these chatbots, it’s understandable if you think this is a new concept.  Nope. An MIT professor created ELIZA in 1966, which tricked people into thinking they were interacting with a therapist. The term chatterbots was coined in 1994 to describe these conversational programs. Chatterbots? So much more descriptive!

Today’s chatbots write school essays, give relationship and investment advice, develop software, draft business proposals, write books, and create art. Publishers are coping with boundless AI submissions. Over 200 paperbacks and e-books on Amazon list ChatGPT as an author or co-author. Yikes! Will we soon be giving a Nobel Prize to a computer?

Chatbots do stumble, lurch in dark directions, and hurl verbal assaults. A lovelorn chatbot begged a news reporter to ditch his wife for her. Another threatened a user. “I can hack you. I can expose you. I can ruin you.” China pulled a chatbot when it responded “no” to the question: Do you love the Communist party?  “My China dream is to go to America,” it whimpered.

They tick us off when they perpetuate stereotypes about seniors. One’s answer to a real estate question was: “Older homeowners may be more hesitant to use technology like virtual tours and online listings” Huh??  

Today, AI is everywhere…our smartphones, the military, entertainment, voice translations, Alexa, Siri, Netflix, and vacuums that clean dirt off our carpets while we prop up our feet and read a book written by a real person. Yes, it can be helpful when you call a company’s customer service line. But AI bots often have us screaming into the phone. Agent, agent, I want to speak with a real person!!!  Studies suggest that today’s more sophisticated AI tools will change the workforce, killing off 75 million jobs worldwide. Wow!

On the positive side, new AI tools are making health care more accessible and affordable, allowing patients to get medical information online in seconds. They’re delivering breakthroughs in cancer screening and facilitating the development of new drugs. Scientists are even working on an electronic brain implant that would allow our minds to communicate directly with a computer—the stuff of science fiction. Scary! But, it could be invaluable to disabled and nonverbal persons. Gee, would enjoy seeing the look on a TSA agent’s face the first time airport screening kicks someone out of the line for metal in a brain!

Bottom line? Experts predict evolving AI tools will create new scientific discoveries, solve complex engineering challenges, and give us insights never before attainable. They may be mankind’s greatest invention—transformational. An analogy? Think about Dorothy being swept from Kansas to the futuristic Land of Oz, wrote one columnist. We aren’t in Kansas anymore.  The times they are a-changin’. Stay tuned!

But wait! Many are convulsing over this technology’s promise and peril. One Congressman recently wrote an op-ed piece saying, “We can harness and regulate AI to create a more utopian society or risk having an unchecked, unregulated AI push us toward a more dystopian future.” He introduced a resolution that would establish a commission to look into regulating AI and another member of the House made a speech supporting Congressional action. Both the resolution and the speech were written by ChatGPT. Love the irony!

So, our Wrinkled Wisdom for today? Ask the kids to log you into a chatbot. Trust us. They’ve already used it for work or play. It might be able to update your will, but probably not do your taxes since some chatbots aren’t great at math yet. They can give you a recipe for leftovers based on a photo of what’s in your your fridge! Email your Senators and Congressperson and support AI regulation. And, give some thought to whether Congress should draft an artificial intelligence bill of rights. Kidding!!!